Lee, Des Moines and Henry counties left out of new round of closures despite surging positivity ratings
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds pointed her finger directly at the 19-24 year olds as the cause for recent uptick in positive COVID-19 across the state, and closed bars in six counties to help combat the surge.
At Reynolds biweekly press conference she announced that bars, taverns, breweries and nightclubs in Linn, Polk, Story, Blackhawk, Dallas, and Johnson counties would be closed effective at 5 p.m. today.
She also said restaurants in those counties can remain open but must stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m.
Lee County, which as of this Thursday afternoon had a 14-day positivity rating in testing for COVID-19 at 15.4%, was left out of any additional mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s coronavirus website at coronavirus.iowa.gov, has Lee County tied with Des Moines County for the eighth highest 14-day positivity rating in the state at 15.4.
Reynolds also again “strongly recommended” that all Iowans over the age of 2 wear a face covering while out in public. But the governor again, stopped short of mandating masks because she said a mandate would be unenforceable.
“I don’t think that gets us where we need to go,” she said when pressed by pool reporters.
“I think the goal is to strongly encourage and recommend and I’ve said that form the very beginning and I believe that people are,” she said.
“That will ultimately go further. It’s not enforceable. The Attorney General has weighed in said anything above what’s in the disaster proclamation is not enforceable.”
Lee County has seen 53 new cases in the past three days and with 37% of the cases confirmed in the age group of 19-40. The next age grouping of 41-60 represents 34% of the cases.
Reynolds told a reporter that counties in southeast Iowa such as Henry have smaller population communities and those people tend to only be tested when they are symptomatic which skews the positivity rating keeping her from taking measures in those areas.
She reminded Iowans that any social gathering of more than 10 people must ensure six feet of social distancing, and asked law enforcement to monitor those situations.
“The rigorous case investigation process and contact tracing work being done by Dr. (Caitlin) Pedati, the IDPH and at the local county level reinforces what were are seeing in the state. And that is that this is tied back to young adults,” Reynolds said.
“The data is compelling. Looking at last two weeks, 23% of all new cases statewide were among young adults 19-24. In Johnson county for the last 14 days in the 19-24 group 58% of new cases are in that category. Story County 67% of all new cases are among 19-24 over last 14 days. And if you look at just the last seven days, 69% in Johnson County are attributed to that category.”
She said she’s met with Iowa Regents and presidents of the universities regarding the trend, but said it’s not unique to Iowa, but across the Midwest and the country.
Efforts are underway to bring more Test Iowa resources to campuses across the state.
“We know this population is less likely to be severely impacted, but they are increasing the virus activity in the community and it’s spilling over into other age groups and the workforce,” Reynolds said.